The Cornell Lab Bird Academy Discussion Groups Joy of Birdwatching Activities: Local Bird Exploration

    • Eric
      Participant
      Chirps: 12
      Activity 1: After 15 minutes, I saw and heard:
      • Puerto Rican Woodpecker
      • Puerto Rican Oriole
      • Puerto Rican Tody
      • Puerto Rican Bullfinch
      • Puerto Rican Emerald
      • Red-tailed Hawk
      • American Kestrel
      • Loggerhead Kingbird
      • Gray Kingbird
      • Scaly-naped Pigeon
      • White-winged Dove
      • Antillean Euphonia
      • Orange-cheeked Waxbill
      • Black-whiskered Vireo
      • Pearly-eyed Thrasher
      • Greater Antillean Grackle
      • Bananaquit
      • Black-faced Grassquit
    • Eva
      Participant
      Chirps: 9
      Activity 2: Merlin gave me many likely birds that I could see today, and the top 5 were: the Rufous-collared Sparrow, the Clay-colored Thrush, the Blue-and-white Swallow, the Great Kiskadee, and the Blue-gray tanager. I have seen all of those species around here. Activity 3: the 5 birds that I didn't know passed through here are: the Blue-vented Hummingbird, the Collared Redstart, the Flame-throated Warbler, the Ringed Kingfisher (the largest kingfisher in the Americas), and the Sooty Thrush, which has a marvelous song. These are only a few from the long list of Likely Birds near me that Merlin listed.
    • Montana
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      Activity #2 & #3: Apparently we can see hummingbirds, chimney swifts, and Northern Rough Winged Swallows where I live. I have never seen these during my trips outside. I've seen hummingbirds only at feeders in regions north of me and south of me. I would love to see one in the wild! I'll have to try activity #1 when the rain stops here!
    • Matthew
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      Activity 3: I decided to learn more about birds I had heard of but didn't know to look for. It turns out chimney swifts are everywhere, and I've probably seen a lot of them and had no idea what they were! Yellow-billed cuckoos look almost too tropical to live near me, so I hope I get to see one. Also learned more about great horned owls, american kestrels (oh boy are those guys cute!), and eastern kingbirds.
    • Lisa
      Participant
      Chirps: 15
      I watched the birds cams for the first time and they are amazing! The Red Tail Hawk cam showed first attempts at flight. The cam at Sapsucker Woods is very busy! There were a lot of Starlings, a Nuttall’s Woodpecker, a Mourning Dove, a Red Winged Blackbird, and a Blue Jay while I watched.
    • Activity 1: Pick a birdwatching spot in your area. It could be out your window, at a local park, or a nearby nature preserve. Or try watching a BirdCam—feeder cams are an especially good choice for seeing different species! Just watch birds for a good 15 minutes. Make a note of all the birds you see or hear.<p> I sat  at Shilshol Bay Marina in Seattle for about half an hour. It was late in the afternoon, around 4pm (next time I'll go early in the morning). I saw the following * rock pigeons * Glaucous Gulls * American crows, lots of them * a small brown bird that I could not clearly identify. I noted the following: smaller than a crow, larger than a sparrow, round body; longish tail, beak slightly smaller than head;  its flight pattern had a rapid beating then short glide, bobbing up and down. A chirping call.<p> I was feeling pretty disappointed with this visit, as I could have seen all of these birds from my yard (well, I might have had to walk down to the corner store to see the pigeons). Then, just as I was preparing to go, I saw what I later realized was pigeons mating - https://youtu.be/5Moiesnn7bI.<p> Activity 2: Use Merlin’s “Most Likely” species feature to find out what birds you are likely to see locally today. If you can, go out and try to find some of them. Be sure to listen to their call and song on Merlin. Maybe it’s a song you’ve heard before, but you didn’t know who made it!<p> I've decided to make this activity my summer project.  I'd like to learn more about 3 birds a week from the Most Likely list in my area. There are 195 birds on the list in Merlin. I will start with the 16 birds on the Common Urban Bird list from the Seattle Audubon (which I just joined) - http://www.seattleaudubon.org/sas/About/Conservation/UrbanHabitat/UrbanHabitatandBirds/CommonUrbanBirds.aspx.
    • Aidan
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Going out around my complex I saw: 3 Anna's Hummingbirds, 3 Black Phoebes, 1 American Crow, 1 Tree Swallow, 2 Red-breasted Nuthatches, 3 American Robins, 6 House Finches, 12 Lesser Goldfinches, 9 Dark-eyed Juncos (a few juvenile), and 1 California Towhee. Quite a nice ecosystem for an apartment complex!
    • Daniel
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity 1: Looking at the bird feeder in my backyard, I saw: White-Breasted Nuthatch Blue Jay Red-Bellied Woodpecker Mourning Dove The lighting wasn't great at the time I did this so I saw some silhouettes but couldn't tell what they were.   Additionally, I heard: Black-Capped Chickadee and several other calls I didn't recognize.
    • Liz
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      I forgot to add the variety of wood peckers I have around my home. And the raucous blue jays In winter the downy and hairy wood peckers and the red breasted and white nut hatches are always at my suet. In the forest near me I can finally distinguish between the sounds of the northern flicker and the piliated wood pecker. Occupationally I see the little brown creeper. And on a rare occasion a yellow bellied sap sucker will visit.
    • Liz
      Participant
      Chirps: 14
      In front of my home is a good sized river where I see a multitude of ducks migrating in the spring. The great blue heron and some Canada geese stay for the summer. I was so excited to hear the american bittern last week. Behind me is forest so I am learning some of the various birds here. So fascinating. But now I am more able to pick out the many songs and realize all the ones I still do not know. What variety. The first bird I hear in the morning is the pine warbler, then the robin, soon followed by the song sparrow and the red eyed vireo. Ravens, crows, mourning doves, red winged black birds, grackles, chipping sparrows, oven birds, ruby throated hummingbirds and phoebes are common also. Others that I hear less common on my bike rides beside the forest are: blue headed vireo, chestnut sided warbler, yellow rumped warbler, cat bird, veery, wood thrush and one of my favourites: common yellow throated warbler. I took a bike ride to some open farm fields and saw a black bird on a wire. I assumed it to be a red winged black bird but when it took off I could see white patches and heard an intricate long pretty song. I had to go hunting in my bird book and asked the Cornell Lab of Ornithology bird song collection to discover it to be a bobolink. The variety of life, or all our fellow creatures astounds me! DSC08855
    • Jennifer
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 2: On today's walk with the dog, I was able to see some American Robin, Mourning Doves, Barn Swallows, Blue Jays, and House Finches. The Mourning Dove was nice see. I typically only notice the Eurasian Collared Doves, so I'm always happy to see the native birds around. I was also surprised to see a Western Kingbird, which according to Merlin is a most likely species, but I've never seen them in my neighborhood.
    • Meghan
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Yay! this was a helpful section. I figured out how to use Ebird a little bit better, to look up the hot spot and then record a track of neighborhood nature trail and birdwatching area Spenard Crossing in Anchorage Alaska. I didn't know there had been 130 species recorded at this little gem! I was hoping to see a redhed, I'll have to go back. I saw 6 species on my walk.
    • Terry
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      After the rain stopped (June 24th in the afternoon) the feeder on my back deck got busy again.  Goldfinches, titmice, nuthatches, downy woodpecker, house finch, and chipping sparrow have all been regular visitors. House Finch 1Male Goldfinch
    • Terry
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      While it poured rain at my home this afternoon, I spent several peaceful minutes watching the Cornell FeederWatch cam.  Immediately I recognized the blue jay, the grackles, and the male cardinal. A woodpecker appeared but was hidden by one of the feeders.  I noticed a red patch but I couldn't tell how large the bird was until it moved to another perch.  Hairy, for sure!  And a little while later, a red-bellied woodpecker!  Red-winged blackbirds, several mourning doves, and the cardinal front and center on the platform feeder.   I recognized the call of the mourning doves and the squeak of their wings.  The red-bellied woodpecker has moved from feeder to feeder, snacking from each one. Here are two I need help with: Screen Shot 2020-06-24 at 2.49.49 PMScreen Shot 2020-06-24 at 2.49.36 PM
    • Karen
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      June 23: a pair of  Carolina wrens  built a nest in a flower pot outside our kitchen window in southern Rhode Island. We saw them bringing bits of twigs & grass for the nest most of Saturday. We can't see into the nest, but we see one or both of the adults generally around 5:30 AM and at our dinner time. Most of the day the nest is completely quiet, so we're never sure if the birds are still around until one shows up. watering the flowers and working in our kitchen are challenges. In the woods near our house we saw an Orchard oriole nest last week. When I first saw the male near the nest I didn't recognize it as an oriole at first: it is much darker orange-red (the Sibley's calls it chestnut) and slimmer than the Baltimores that I'm more used to. We saw both parents bringing food. The nest was quiet this morning and no sight of the adults.
    • Linda
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      Hi!  I now know about grey catbirds...have heard them many times but finally put a face to the song!
    • Jacquie
      Participant
      Chirps: 2
      My son and I are taking this course together.  We did these activities and really enjoyed learning about local birds. My son started his life list last week and already has identified 14 birds in our backyard.  Instead of doing the suggested activities, we are using what we learned in this lesson to plan our upcoming vacation bird watching since we're going to the beach and aren't as familiar with shore birds.  We have our binoculars ready!
    • Laurie
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      Activity #1: We went for a walk yesterday and we saw, the Red Tailed Hawk, the Black Phoebe, Bewick's Wren, Northern Mockingbird, a Mourning Dove, and we heard: and Spotted Towhee, and a California Scrub Jay. Activity#2: We have seen many of the birds that were "most likely", but we will try to spot the Dark-Eyed Junco. Activity#3: The birds we did not know about are, the Violet-Green Swallow, the American Kestrel, Costa's Hummingbird, the Mountain Chickadee, and the Peregrine Falcon.IMG_3776
    • Cathy
      Participant
      Chirps: 45
      1.  Bird watching exercise.  I looked in the area by my apartment for 10 or 15 minutes for this exercise.   I saw crows, sparrows, robins, and many blue jays.  I hadn't previously noticed how steeply blue jays could dive, and how quick the birds are.   I also noticed that birds often chase each other.  I always knew this but now that I am paying more attention, this seems to be more noticeable to me.   On this day, the crows and sparrows were chasing each other.  But yesterday I saw 2 different species of sparrows chasing each other and actually seeming to fight.  I was quite surprised at how aggressive one of them was. 2.  Merlin's locality tool.  I was very surprised at some of the birds which I could, in theory, see in my area.  I also noticed a bird that I could add to my life list, the orchard oriole. Activity 3: Using range maps or bar charts, find five birds that pass through your area that you didn’t know about:   I didn't know that the following birds could be in my area:  Wood Duck, American Kestrel, Green Heron, Virginia Rail, Cedar WaxWing.  I was surprised to see the Peregrine Falcon on the list.  The university that I went to in the MidWest helped with an initiative to help increase their population in the 1980s.  I was surprised to learn, when I listened to the call recording, that I have likely heard them out East in Maryland where I am currently living.
    • Jon
      Participant
      Chirps: 5
      NorthernFlickerBelmontPond061620_1587NorthernFlickerBelmontPond061620_1592 Saw this northern flicker taking a drink at the pond at Fox Run in Novi, Michigan, June 16, 2020.
      • Jacquie
        Participant
        Chirps: 2
        Wow, great photos!  I am never fast enough to get good bird shots.
      • Jamies
        Participant
        Chirps: 10

        @Jacquie Same here. We need to be very agile and have a good camera with zooming function to get great shots of birds around. I wonder what cameras most people use in the Bird Academy.

    • Lesley
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: Walking along the shore in our community on Vancouver Island, I noticed three black birds, between a crow and a goose in size, that were sitting out on rocks offshore., and was uncertain about their identity. I am familiar with cormorants as well as Surf Scoters and Black Oystercatchers, but these three did not match exactly the profile of any of these, although the Oystercatcher was my best guess even though I couldn't see red beaks or legs. The Merlin app confirmed this identification based on the posture of the birds perched on the rocks. Activity 2: Most Likely to be seen today? Several at my feeder! Two Bandtailed Pigeons that squeeze themselves into the feeder and sit there to eat are especially amusing. Activity 3: Using ebird bar charts, I searched on my region: Northern Pacific Rainforest, and specified Migration Season to search for five birds that pass through this area that I didn't know about. So many possibilities -- but the real surprises to me, because I thought these birds were more common in the East and I didn't think they would be seen on the west coast of Canada at all, were: Great Egret, Cedar Waxwing, Purple Martin, Yellow Warbler, and California Scrub Jay. I also learned about some birds that I hope to see: Western Tanager, Golden Crowned Kinglet, Western Bluebird, and Red Breasted Sapsucker, if they show up one day in my region.
    • clara
      Participant
      Chirps: 6
      Actividad 1 En el Jardín de mi casa pude observar las siguientes especies de aves Pichitanka (Zonotrichia Capensis), Águila Mora (Geranoaetus Melanoleucos), Gaviota Andina (Chroicocephalus Serranus), Kurkuta (Metropelia Ceciliae), Paloma Manchada (Patagioenas Maculosa), Tortola Torcaza (Zenaida Auriculata), Vencejo Andino (Aeronautes Andecolus), Picaflor Verde (Colibri Curuscans), Picaflor Cometa (Sappho Sparganura), Picaflor Gigante (Patagona Gigas), Carpintero Andino (Colaptes Rupicola), Alkamari (Phalcoboenus Mrgalopterus),Qilli Quilli (Falco Sparverius), Kirki (Psilopsiagan Aymara) Y Canastero Rojizo (Asthenes Dorbignyi) Actividad 2 Las aves que encontré el día de hoy fueron: Águila Mora (Geranoaetus Melanoleucos), Paloma Manchada (Patagioenas Maculosa, Picaflor Verde (Colibri Curuscans), Carpintero Andino (Colaptes Rupicola) Y Alkamari (Phalcoboenus Mrgalopterus) Actividad 3 Los cinco pájaros que pasanpor mi área que no conocía son: Remolinera Común (Cinclodes Albiventris), Chainita Cordillerana (Sparagra Uropygialis), Monterita De Pecho Gris (Poospiza Hypochondria), Mielerito Gris (Conirostrum Cinereum ) Y Amizilia Chionogaster Picaflor De Vientre Blanco.
    • Marcia
      Participant
      Chirps: 7
      Activity 1: I went out in my backyard (I live just north of Toronto) and just sat there. At first I didn't see any birds, although I heard lots. Eventually I started seeing some birds, picking them out against the trees. I was amazed that after an hour, I had seen 11 species: Northern Cardinal, Downy Woodpecker, White-Breasted Nuthatch, Northern Flicker, Mourning Dove, American Robin, Common Grackle, House Sparrow, American Goldfinch, European Starling -- and then a Ruby-throated Hummingbird came to our feeder.   Activity 2: All the birds I saw are on the "Most Likely" list. Nothing rare here -- but still, I was amazed at the diversity!   Activity 3: Apparently the Eastern Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, Blue-winged Warbler, Blue-headed Vireo and Black-billed Cuckoo are all in my area. I've only managed to see the last one -- I'm still on the lookout for the other four!
    • Hannah
      Participant
      Chirps: 8
      Activity 1: My birdwatching spot was on my back deck. I saw Common Grackles, House Finches, Mourning Doves, and an American Robin. I also identified two new birds: a House Wren visiting its nest inside my birdhouse gourd hanging from a tree, and a Song Sparrow eating seed from the ground underneath my feeder (both identified using Merlin!). I heard a warbling song from a tree in my yard, but I was unable to identify the bird it came from. Activity 2: The top seven birds on Merlin’s Most Likely list for my area today are: American Robin (seen today), Red-winged Blackbird (seen today), Ring-billed Gull, Song Sparrow (seen today), American Goldfinch (seen today), Northern Cardinal (seen today), and Common Grackle (seen today). Activity 3: Using eBird, I found the following birds that pass through my area: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, American Coot, Great Black-backed Gull, Green Heron, and Purple Martin.
    • Diane
      Participant
      Chirps: 4
      I didn't realize that I had checked "Family" in the Likely tab.  Seemed to limit my findings.  Switched to "Most Likely" in my current location, and suddenly I started seeing birds I see everyday at the top of the list.  Also, I affirmed my identification of this beauty. (It didn't show up in my previous settings)  Lifelong goal has been to see this  bird in person!   DSC02321 Great Horned Owl.  Located in a tree outside my front door! 5/17/2020 In addition to the owl, I had no idea that I might see Western tanager, Luzuli bunting, wood duck or mute swan in this area.  I generally see less colorful birds.  I hope to see them around!
      • Cathy
        Participant
        Chirps: 45
        Beautiful picture.  I love the expression on it's face!
      • Lisa
        Participant
        Chirps: 15
        Changing the setting to Most Likely was a very helpful tip. I was able to make a list of likely birds that I had not seen yet. The plan is to study how they look, compare to similar birds, study their songs. I have already seen one bird on this list, the Wrentit. I am hoping to identify a bird that I hear everyday but have never seen. It makes a distinctive Wheeeeee sound. If anyone has an idea I would love to hear it. And beautiful photo!